Wednesday, April 4th 2018
Ophelia Hirakawa-Morice (AKA Ophelia Ishijima),
I hope you forgive me for letting you go. I had to let you go & give up the fight for co-parenting. I didn’t want to give in, but I was afraid through no fault of your own that it would tear you apart. I had to give your mother space and time to reflect. We both love you. There’s no shame in that.
Know that I have always loved you, more and more every day. More and more with each passing year. As you get older, I wonder how much you remember of our time together? How much of you clings to what we once shared? Even now, from afar, I feel that with your mother’s weighty expectations on your shoulders, there has always be an excuse to not contact me. Always. I understand that. I can wait. I also feel and guess hope, that you’re edging closer to reaching out to your cousins, your aunts, your uncles, your Nandee & Pa. This very moment, they’re all waiting with open arms for you… Me too. I miss you Phi.
I rest easy knowing that the last time we met, the last time we walked side by side, it was you who took my hand within seconds of leaving your mother. It was you who looked up at me and smiled. It was you who made everything perfect. It was you who continued to make us both feel like everything was the way it had always been.
When you were young, you craved affection. I loved that. You liked to be held, you liked a cuddle, and you loved story time. You were in charge, often choosing my knee, never pushing me away, and if you did, it was with a smile. In the Big Orange Car, we listened to Missy Higgins, KC Chambers & the Waifs, all girl bands. Girls rock! You rocked! You danced and sang, and made me dance too. I loved it. One day, you decided you wanted to be a real dancer, so I took you to a dance class the following weekend. All the other parents left after dropping off their kids, or some of the mothers sat down and looked into their phones. I was the only dad. You were close to the youngest & you wanted me to stay, so I stayed to watch. It felt great to be wanted by you. I think some of the other mothers were curious, even jealous of what we shared. I didn’t really understand dance (still don’t – I’m a terrible dancer, ask Cc!), and I think you were surprised that the teacher wanted to instruct you on step after step. You just wanted to be free with the music. You didn’t like the rigors and routines of the dance class much, so when the class finally finished, I scooped you into my arms and we giggled on the way home. You were in the back seat on the bicycle, your arms flailing around like an albatross about to take off. You weren’t going back, you were just happy to dance with your Dad. Life was good.
Looking back, I hope that you felt special and important to me. You really were my everything. The simple things we did together were the best. Hot chocolate while writing Christmas cards. A picnic with Riku in the park and a throw of the Frisbee. Camping by a mountain stream, you perched on my knee, our bellies full and our necks craned upward, star gazing. You were always fascinated with nature, never afraid. I would watch you absorbed in the act of picking a flower, or a weed. You were my daughter, but you were also my companion, someone I could joke and play with. You were the best.
So, what now? Where to next? Have you given any thought to what you might like to do with your life post high school? University, travel, Australia, Tokyo Olympics, running, teaching, visiting your Dad???
For me, the joy and wonderment of teaching still blooms strong. Where to next, I hear you ask. Well, we’ve talked about Eastern Europe. There are good schools in Bucharest – Romania, Budapest – Hungry & Warsaw – Poland. Cc is keen on Singapore, and of course, if we re-connect with you, then Nippon would be grand, too. Taipei is an option, and maybe even India. What do you think? Fancy a holiday with Dad & Cc in one of those locations?
I have a wonderous job – teaching. I really love it. Every day is different, everything new & fresh. The school I’m at in Hong Kong spoils us when it comes to professional development (PD). Already they’ve sent me to San Francisco, Cambodia & Thailand, not to mention excellent in-house PD with some of the best educators in the world. After ‘good’ professional development (PD) I still can’t wait to get back in the classroom. Though the educational climate in 2019 – one of rigidity, pressure and expectation, keeps pushing and pushing, it’s still the best job.
Some days I even hear wisdom in my own voice, especially when I talk to younger teachers. The start of any new school year awaits like a tightly wrapped Christmas gift – full of potential, full of surprises! It’s wonderful. The promise of a year of new learning, new professional growth (PD) and new opportunities. The best thing about being a teacher, is that it matters. Just like being a dad, don’t you think? The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters every day.
So, who am I? Well, in terms of health, compared to the same generation, I’m in pretty good shape. I have a few creaking joints, a bit of hearing loss, two years back I purchased my first pair of reading glasses, and the discovery that whole sections of my memory have collapsed (except for those memories that cradle you), but otherwise I’m feeling great.
As you know, I exercise often. Sometimes I push it too hard & my heartbeat hovers in the red zone a little long. Perhaps someday the excess exercise will kill me, but I need you to know that if I have a heart attack when I’m exercising, I die a happy man. Sometimes I feel I should tell Cc about my heart rate going ballistic, but somehow it seems arrogant & boastful to talk like that. If it happens, tell Cc how much I loved her. She’s so good for me… XoXo…
How’s your mother doing? I hope she’s mellowed & more relaxed as she grows older. I hope she’s happier, stronger, more comfortable in her life, too. I think your mother might have once upon a time taken kindness & forgiveness as a form of weakness. But now, well, as she approaches 50, I hope that she thinks there are shades of nobility about kindness. She has goodness within, and you’re the best person to bring that out. I hope too that I’m not the dripping tap of regret in the back of your mother’s mind. We’ve all made mistakes, it’s time to forgive and move forward.
I love you Phi… see you soon, I hope.
I still wonder how your faint memories of me are standing up. I wonder if your fading recollections of me still feel a part of your heart. Have the voices of your Australian linage softened? Is their scent disappearing? Do you still dream of us? We remember you everyday. Can you still remember running along the foreshore at the beach with your cousin, Allie? Can you remember visiting Melbourne zoo with all of your cousins?
It’s Easter Break here, so I have this glorious week off. This morning I woke with Cc at 6am and went off & did my muscular endurance training: 100 push-ups, 100 crunches, 48 lunges, 30 dips, 30 chin-ups, 3 x 100 second planks, and 3 x 45 second static squats, and a bit more work on the core. Love it! Gonna die fit & healthy!
Cc is working, so tonight I’ll do Mexican tortillas. Last night I did salmon & vegetables. Fancy some Mexican together?
Yesterday, I woke with Cc at 6am too, and ran out to Tai Tam reservoir with Toro. We met Shawn, because Toro was heading out to work as a ‘therapy dog’ for a few more days. Phi, you would love our Toro. He’s so gentle with people, other dogs, and he even likes cats! He’ll stay with Stan & Shawn’s family, spending time with their daughter Hayden, who needs a little tender loving care at the moment.
Easter Friday, we both had off, so we headed for a 2 hour 45 minute hike. Found some new trails, which opened up even more views. Then Saturday, we hiked for 3 hours, and spoiled ourselves with a big breakfast at cool café up at Braemar Hill, Coffee 101. Oh Phi, you’d love it here! When are you joining us? Always room for three…
Sunday morning we jumped on the turbo ferry to Macau. First up was a short hike up Guia Hill, where an old Portuguese fortress was built in 1622. Then we walked to Saint Anthony’s Church, first built by bamboo by the Jesuits in 1560! After which we had an amazing Chinese lunch – fried dumplings, squid with noodles, dumpling soup, and an icy beer.
After our deliciumptious lunch, we headed to the iconic Saint Paul’s, of which only the ruins of the façade remain. In the ‘old area’ we visited several places of historic interest, then walked south to Barra Hill and the A-Ma Temple.
Finally, we took a bus to the southern Ilhas Island (Taipa, Cotai & Coloane). We checked in with a bazillion other tourists at the Sheraton Grand Macau. That evening we greatly enjoyed an amazing Portuguese meal at Restaurante Espaco Lisboa. We started with cod koroke and an octopus salad. Magnific! After our aperitif of a beer for Dad and a port for Cc (what would you have had? A shandy?), we ordered the unique duck rice and an espaco lisboa steak. Fantabulous! Needless to say, we couldn’t fit in dessert.
Monday morning on Macau, we waltzed around the old town of Taipa, before heading back to Honky Town.
Love you Phi… XoXo… No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted.
Friday, April 6th 2018
Had a run this morning up to the Morning Walkers’ Garden. The garden has a chin-up bar, so Dad can do his muscular training, too. 3 x 12 sets of chin-ups, 100 crunches & three 90 second planks.
It’s 4:38PM and Dad has another hour to wait until Carlton take on Collingwood in the Friday night blockbuster. Can’t wait! Both teams aren’t travelling well with nil – two starts to the season. Let’s hope young Charlie Curnow kicks a bag!
Midday today, I took the MTR to Kowloon Bay to meet Cc for lunch. Every Friday, Cc gets a long 90 minute lunch, so we went to a nearby restaurant. Dad had a steak with vegies, and Cc had assorted appetizers. I also sent a letter to Kyoko San, my first lawyer, hoping we can meet each other this summer… Maybe, she can put us on the path to getting back together… maybe… XoXo…
Yesterday, was a public holiday, but poor Cc had loads of work to do, so ended up spending much of the day working from home. Dad had a run in the afternoon, and banged out the 100 Club of crunches & push-ups, and threw in 30 chin-ups & three 100 second planks.
Last night I cooked ribs with grilled red & yellow capsicums, mushrooms, and baked potatoes with sour cream.
Let us know when you want to visit… dinner will be ready… XoXo…
Saturday, April 21st 2018
This morning Dad was up at 6.30am. I went for a run, did 100 push-ups, 200 crunches! 30 chin-ups, 3 x 16 lunges, 3 x 45 second squats, 3 x 60 second planks, 2 x one minute reverse bird-dogs, two x 15 kick-ups.
This afternoon, I started my 22 homeroom comments for my students, then watched Carlton versus West Coast at the MCG. The Baby Blues did okay. Another honorable, gallant loss. This time by 10 points.
Friday night I had Stan & Jason come over for some fried chicken, sushi & a game of footy. The Crows played the Swans in Sydney, and despite all their injury concerns, the Crows got up.
Wednesday Cc went to Nippon on business. Dad & Stan ran from Tai Tam to North Point. Stan took Toro back to Stanley so he could spend some time with Hayden. Dad ran home Thursday, too, a lazy 11.4km.
Last Saturday night we hosted Sarah & Trey for dinner. Dad prepared his risotto, salmon, haloumi wrapped in bacon, all served beside roasted red capsicum. Cc created homemade salted caramel vanilla ice cream. The Friday before, we met in Tai Koo, did some shopping at Aeon, then enjoyed some sushi. Dad had uni & salmon. Yum!
Love you kid! Dad… XoXo
Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.
Saturday, May 12th 2018
I’m sitting in Pacific Coffee, North Point. It’s a chain of coffee stores here in Hong Kong, fortunately better than Starbucks. Not my first choice of coffee, but as my students sometimes give me gift vouchers, it’s a pretty happy medium. When you visit us in Hong Kong, there’s a great café, Brew Note, just around the corner. Do you like coffee? You used to love your baby-chinos!
Last night we had Japanese in NP. It’s not too bad, but lacks the variety & freshness of Nippon. It’s also crazy expensive. Also yesterday (Friday) was the G4 Maker Showcase. It’s a science unit where the students research different circuits and create wonderous showpieces using Makey Makey & Hummingbird kits.
Dad ran home Wednesday night and Cc returned from Singapore Thursday (business).
Dad went to Bangkok Wednesday, May 2nd to Saturday May 5th on some pretty amazing PD. I went to a conference about Word Inquiry hosted by Pete Bowers. It was fantastic! Can’t wait to try it out in the classroom.
While in Thailand, I caught up with Colleen & Bruce on Thursday night. Do you remember Colleen & Bruce from Numazu? Dad taught with Colleen.
Friday night with my colleagues, Alex & Eric, Dad had a view drinks from a VW van on the streets of Bangkok. It was epic, just sitting on three stools in from of this tiny bar/van. Later we ventured to the Arabic quarter for some excellent Lebanese cuisine.
Tuesday, May 1st was Labour Day here. I didn’t do much, other than write reports.
Well, Bella, Dad has more reports to write. See you soon… Dad… XoXo…
Falling down is part of life. Getting back up is living.
Saturday, May 19th 2018
This morning was Cc’s last day at the language school. Dad cooked a seafood bonanza with garlic chili prawns, scallops in butter with fresh parsley, all washed down with some Australian sparkling wine, an assortment of cheeses, and a French baguette. There was too much for two… fancy joining us?
Good night Ophelia… sweet dreams… XoXo… Dad.
Saturday, May 26th 2018
What’s happening in Totoro’s hometown? Remember when we used to scramble through bushes in search of a glimpse of the elusive Totoro? Sometimes we thought we did see him… perhaps we did. How magic was that?
This morning we hiked again seeking out Totoro’s Hong Kong headquarters. Didn’t see him, but his friends were plentiful. Butterflies, bees, frogs, flowers, seedlings sprouting! Spring! New life! Hope!
Fortunately, Cc doesn’t have to work at the dobutsuen this afternoon. She calls it the dobutsuen, but really it’s just an English language school where she teaches kids English. I think the kidlets are a bit feral.
This afternoon, I wrote my science & social studies reports. It took nearly four hours, but felt, oh, so good banging out my first draft! As a reward, I watched the Baby Blues bravely take on Geelong down at Geelong. Carlton were pretty stoic, but skill errors & lack of composure let them down again.
We used to pass through Geelong on our way to Nandee & Pa’s beach house. Do you remember the beach house at Barwon Heads? I can still see you in the garden, flitting here and there between the lavender like a fairy.
So, that was the day… still hot & sticky here, 30.3 degrees Celsius at 9.03pm. It’s time to get my things ready for Monday in the classroom. I’ll be up at 5.15am… LOVE my job!
Friday night we met Taka san, Cc’s friend from her university days some decades past. And guess what? Tomorrow your Nandee & Pa arrive.
Monday had my teacher fitness class. Just the six of us. Even so, it was fun. Cc’s friend, Yumiko, arrived from Nippon/London Monday. The three of us hiked Tuesday morning because it was a public holiday. Later Cc & Yumiko went sightseeing while Dad wrote reports.
Wednesday was a surprise b’day for your Dad’s 50th at Turtle Cove. Wait till you see the t-shirts all my colleagues wore! Each t-shirt has a huge picture of your dad’s face with his crazy hair. I’m spoiled to have friends like these… XoXo…
On Thursday evening, I ran home from Tai Tam. Just love it, even the hills!
Keep running, possum! One day soon, we’ll be running shoulder-to-shoulder… Love Dad… XOXO…
Thursday, June 7th 2018
Konichi wa Ophelia,
Your Nandee & Pa arrived Sunday, May 27th. We’ve had a marvelous time with them. Tomorrow is Pa’s birthday, so last weekend we bought him a cool Japanese watch. He seemed pretty happy about it, and didn’t try too hard to fight off our offer. He’s a one of a kind your Pa. I hope you re-connect soon; you’ll soon realise what a selfless, caring and humble man your Australian grandfather is. He’s a great chef, too!
Your grandparents flew out of Honkers this morning at 10.40am aboard a Cathay Pacific flight. Last night we enjoyed a lovely meal at Little Chili in Northpoint. The heavens opened overnight, too.
Dad has been running heaps, in fact I ran home this evening after a bit of a tough day in the classroom. It felt free to be running, sweating and flying. Tomorrow, I will run home again. This time with my Canadian mate, Stan. We’ll run to our apartment in North Point to pick up Toro for a sleepover. Our wonderful little doggie will hopefully work his magic with Stan’s daughter.
Tuesday evening Pa & Nandee stayed in Macau. By all reports they had a great time. Pretty impressive at their age! More than anything, though, they do wish to see you again, Phi…
Sunday we all went to Lamma Island, Tori included. We grabbed a taxi and headed to Central Piers. From #05, we took the ferry to Lamma. It’s so cool! Just after arriving, Dad headed off on some trails & had a run, then I had a swim with Nandee. She’s very cool, your Nandee. We had a delicious lunch at a Chinese restaurant called ‘something’ Jade. Cc, will remember; I’m hopeless with names!
Saturday evening we cooked up an enormous fish basket for four. Kaki fry, scallops, garlic prawns, sashimi & oishi Aussie sparkling! It was a fun night… I miss seeing my mum & dad…
In the morning, Dad accompanied three of his students to the Autism Recovery Centre. It was an amazing experience. This year, I started something I call, Action Hour. During Action Hour, students work to give back to the community. My 22 students divided themselves into six groups. Their action is driven by themselves. There’s a group wanting to assist the elderly – their goal is to visit an elderly citizens’ home & put on a concert; another group wanting to draw attention to Global Warming & organizing a clean-up of Hong Kong’s mountain trails; a third group is campaigning against single-use plastics & organizing a beach clean-up; a fourth group shaved their head alongside Dad to support kids with cancer. Anyway, it was an awakening for my three students, but after three hours they were all smiles.
As part of Action Hour, Thursday after school (your dad’s b’day), May 31st I accompanied two students to an elderly person’s home. In the evening, Danielle, Stan, Shawn, Gretchen & Alex surprised me by turning up at our flat at 7pm for a dinner at Little Chili. The same morning the whole G4 team had burst into my room with some daggy Ged t-shirts. The kids also gave me a surprise party after morning recess. From Nishka, one of my students, I received a 400USD bottle of wine!
Alrighty Phi, time to sign off… Love Dad… XoXo…
Saturday, June 9th 2018
Dad had an interesting morning. I met an old friend here in Hon Kong. It was about 25 years since we last met in Hungary and Germany. Hayd & Dad were travelling through Europe for seven weeks when we met Kacey & Dianne, a couple of American lasses. We had some grand times with them, and perhaps because there was no romance involved, the girls followed us to Budapest. Probably a decade ago, we all reconnected on Facebook, and alas, we finally met again. Cc was working, but I met KC & her husband, Jonathan, for yum-cha this morning. She hasn’t changed! I told her all about you and my beautiful Cc… see you soon, I hope… XoXo…
Last night after work, Cc & Dad met at North Point station for some scrummy Japanese. Good sashimi, sushi and tempura. Next time, what about joining us?
Love & licks,
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, today is a gift.
Monday, June 18th 2018
This very minute I’m writing to you aboard a Hong Kong Airlines flight to Bangkok. My high school mate, Tim, arrived in Hong Kong Thursday evening, and this morning we decided to get out of Cc’s hair and head to Bangkok for a few days.
Today? Mmm, we didn’t do much, although I was up & gone on my run with Toro by 6.10am. We ran up into the hills beyond Braemar Hill. There were a few others hiking the trails, but mostly we had the morning to ourselves. We did see just the one wild boar snuffling around for some tasty roots. After breakfast, Tim & Dad grabbed a coffee at a nearby café, then we went to a famous local dim sum restaurant that once had a Michelin star; these days it only has a Michelin recommendation. By 4pm we were at the airport, and now, my princess, Dad’s half way to Bangkok (again).
Yesterday morning, Cc, Dad & Toro once again took to the trails, only this time a swarm of bees chased Cc. Sadly, she was stung six times! Curiously they left Toro & Dad alone. It was the second time she’d suffered the same fate; the first time we were camping off Kagoshima on an island. Cc was a bit of a mess, and must have been in significant pain as she also felt nauseous. She rested most of the day, so Dad went off to Tim’s hotel to catch up with him. Around 4pm, we jumped in a taxi and Tim checked into our flat in North Point. Last night, we stayed local and dined at an Indian restaurant.
Saturday morning, after my exercise routine and jog with Toro, Cc & Dad joined Tim at his hotel for breakfast. Then we jumped on the tram for Causeway Bay and showed Tim the Apple store. He bought the nurses a thank you gift, the latest i-pad. Later we headed back to North Point to watch Freo dismantle Carlton by about 10 goals. That night we again joined Tim at the buffet lounge of his hotel.
Friday was my last day of school. I arrived early, finished packing my boxes for the move to Repulse Bay, then treated myself to a session in the gym. By 10.30am we were toasting the leaving teachers and 60 minutes later saying our farewells. That evening, we joined Tim at his hotel for dinner & drinks.
Thursday, was a nondescript full day of packing boxes, labelling furniture, and organizing what to take to the newly renovated campus, what to toss, and what to leave. By 3.30pm, Stan & Dad had had enough, so we picked up Toro who had spent several nights with Hayden and ran back to North Point. Around 7pm there was a knock at the door, and Tim was standing there, a full 24 hours before we were expecting him. Do you remember Tim? You used to call him “Funny Tim.”
Wednesday, June 13th was the final day for the students. They presented their Curiosity projects, I presented them with some comical awards, and generally speaking they were quite a joy to be with. I received some bottles of wine, a cashmere vest, and even a gift voucher to a local tailor. That afternoon – evening, HKIS put on an end of year bbq celebration in the HS cafeteria. I only lasted an hour, then went home to my lovely Cc… XoXo…
Monday, Dad coached his faculty fitness class, then in the evening the G4 team went to Three Blind Mice for a delightful evening of food & drink. End of the academic year… how can I help you?
The undertaking of a new action brings strength. I’ll always be here for you… take all the time you need.
Monday, June 25th 2018
How are you doing this morning? I guess you’re still at school. I’m back in Honkers after four nights with Tim in Bangkok. The local kids here in Hong Kong are still in uniform. Two more sleeps and Dad will be on the big mechanical bird on his way to Nippon.
Sitting in our local café with Tim who arrived in Honkers on Dad’s last day at school, June 15th. Dad had another old-man workout this morning, with Toro watching. 60 push-ups, 30 chin-ups, 100 crunches, 3 x 16 lunges, 3 x 45 second static squats, 3 x 45 second side planks. Feels good to exercise in this heat & humidity – character building!
This afternoon, we also visited the Adventist Hospital where Tim spent a month in intensive care (ICU). This time last year my friend was in a very bad way. It was great to see the nurses again, Valerie & Jessie, although Tracy wasn’t there. In keeping with our athletic heritage, Phi, Dad ran home from the hospital, beating Tim in the taxi!
Yesterday (Sunday) we went to the Tai Koo Shin complex. Cc & Dad shared some okonomiyaki & takoyaki, while Tim kept the Japanese theme going with some Mos Burger. Last night Dad cooked steak, roasted potatoes, mushrooms & capsicum, all washed down with Tim’s bottle of Penfold’s 389.
Thursday for lunch we lined up for Jay Fai Michelin star restaurant in Bangkok. The chef’s signature is an omelet stuffed with crab meat. Not cheap at about 40USD, and we had to wait around 2.5 hours, but a good experience. Before lunch we went to the MBK shopping complex. I bought Cc a few b’day presents including a workout outfit.
Tim & Dad checked into the Hilton Millennium Monday night. Courtesy of Tim’s membership, breakfast was included and even evening drinks. Each night in the lounge they put on snacks that pretty much covered our dinner, too.
Each morning I rose around 7am and made the most of the gym; one day Dad I went twice! Tuesday morning we jumped on a ferry and went up river to a train station. There we headed into downtown, Siam Station, for a bit of shopping and lunch.
Dad decided he would join Tim for a massage, and for the first time ever, semi-enjoyed the experience. What about you, Phi, do you like massages? Feels like torture to me!
Wednesday evening we jumped on a ferry and headed across the river to a Thai restaurant, Harmonique, Cc & Dad had enjoyed several years earlier, when Dad had interviewed in Bangkok for the position in Hong Kong.
We flew back to HK Friday afternoon/evening. Saturday morning, Dad & Toro did their workout thing, and later in the day, Dad doubled up on exercise & went for a run. Saturday was also Cc’s 28th b’day. Yes, she was 28 when Dad met her nine years ago. Cc wasn’t feeling too chipper, so instead of heading out we just got some sashimi & sushi for home & enjoyed a bottle of French rose.
Well Bella, that’s it for another chapter in my life. Hope you’re smiling, happy & full of energy… love Dad… XoXo…